Emily is a Paralegal in our Family team here at National Legal Service and joined us last year.
In this blog she gives us an insight into her busy day as working mum and domestic abuse practitioner.
7am Rise and shine! My alarm clock tends to be my toddler, she’s currently singing loudly in her bedroom. I need to have everyone ready and out the door by 7:45am which can be a bit of challenge, today is a good day. Success! Nursery drop is off at 8am.
8am In normal times I’d be heading into the office at this point, but since the world went sick and mad, I head back home.
8:45am I’m not due to log on until 9:30; London hours are great, especially for the morning commute! However, my itchy fingers can’t resist and I’m now online. If I was in the office, this is the time my supervisor would be lecturing me for my excessive caffeine drinking habit! She’s not here to comment on my 2nd cup of the morning so far…
Emails, emails, emails. I sometimes think the world goes mad whilst I’m asleep! I try to go through as many as I can, filtering the ones that are urgent from the ones that don’t need a reply. I must confess though… I’ve seen most of them already, having access to my work emails on my phone is both a blessing and a curse.
9:40am My daily telephone catch up with my supervisor. If I was in the office, I’d usually drag my chair to her desk and together we’d make a plan of action for the day. I miss the social interaction. We go through my files and discuss what’s on the urgent list. The problem with domestic abuse is that it’s almost all urgent, some cases are just more urgent than others.
Next on the to do list are the CCMS notifications. CCMS is an online system we use to process legal aid Cases, today there are 12 notifications in the inbox, going through those will take a big chunk of my morning.
10:25am Quick break to refill my water bottle before I call my 10:30 appointment. The call is to a client I spoke to briefly yesterday. She is a new enquiry we’ve received from the National Centre for Domestic Violence (NCDV) after quick introductions I gathered a bit more information to assess her legal aid eligibility. Part of the process is to obtain bank statements and any other financial documents to satisfy means testing, I’ve received those now so I can progress to a telephone appointment.
During the phone appointment I need to take full details of what’s been going on, and why the client needs an injunction. Often our clients have been through some truly horrific incidents and understandably find it quite hard to open up about their experiences. Usually after speaking with a client for a few minutes they start to reveal what they’ve been going through. I’ve learned to tailor my approach to what an individual client needs and to the style they’ll respond to; some prefer friendly and chatty; others prefer to just let it all out whilst I listen.
Following the appointment, I email the client’s legal aid application for a digital signature. We use a tool called ZOHO which makes the process so easy.
1:30pm Lunch time. I usually just grab something quick to eat, today is no exception. As per the norm I eat whilst filtering through more emails. I can see that my client has signed her legal aid application which means I need to get to work urgently on her court papers. It’s a particularly nasty case so I want to try to get it into court tomorrow if at all possible, the day after at the latest.
2:30pm I have an afternoon court hearing. I’ve undertaken more advocacy work since the lockdown began. The majority of our hearings are now done remotely by telephone, which means I get to appear before Judges who are based all over the country. I still find it a little strange not sitting in a court room but over time I’ve become more used to it. This afternoon is quite an easy hearing as the Respondent has not accepted the call despite numerous attempts and being given plenty of notice of the court hearing. We already had an ex-parte order so following this hearing the Judge confirmed that the order is now final.
3:30pm The hearing is finished. I’ve received an email from the CAFCASS (Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service) officer on one of my cases. He’s just introducing himself as he’s been allocated to do the Section 7 report (a report written by an Independent Social Worker in cases where an application has been made to the Court in accordance with The Children Act 1989 section 8. An Independent Social Worker provides an independent evaluation and assessment of a situation and reports the findings to the Court) I give him an update on the last hearing and make sure he’s got the up-to-date contact details for the parties. This case is a little more complicated than some of the others I’ve been working on due to the local authority being involved, this is my first experience of social care.
I have two statements to draft this afternoon. One of them is from the call this morning and the other is slightly less urgent due the legal aid certificate already being in place. My afternoon looked quite calm earlier however, three clients I’ve been chasing for the last fortnight have now responded to my emails, so I need to give each of them a call. Meanwhile my phone will not stop ringing! Clients who just want to check in before their hearing, another client has had problems with contact, so I need to step in to try to resolve with the ex-partner.
5:30pm well almost… I still have a to do list as long as my arm! I know my supervisor is in the same boat – I can see she’s taken two statements and attended a court hearing already today. I know she will be in for a late night and I will be logging back on once my little one is in bed for the night.
The life of a legal aid domestic abuse lawyer is far from glamorous, but it’s certainly worthwhile, the work we do is incredibly important and often critical to the victims of abuse.
The smiles and hugs we get at court when an injunction is granted, the look of relief when it’s all finally over, along with the thank you emails and lovely feedback we receive makes the busy days and late nights all worth it.